Age no barrier for high-flying Alan

Alan Gibson gets his wings.
Alan Gibson gets his wings.

A NORTH Northumberland gliding club saw one of its records broken last weekend as a 74-year-old man flew solo.

It was a memorable day at Borders Gliding Club, at Milfield, when grandfather Alan Gibson won his pilot’s wings, setting a new club record as the most senior person to go solo since the club was formed in 1969.

His achievement was all the more remarkable because he was not expecting, nor intending to go solo at his age and had already promised his wife that he would not give her any cause for concern by trying to fly solo.

Alan first went to Borders Gliding Club in 2007 because his 16-year-old grandson, Chris Francis, wanted to learn to fly gliders.

For many months Alan was only there as a supportive granddad – watching Chris train and eventually solo – but he soon got caught up in the camaraderie of the club.

Eventually Alan had a go for himself but assumed that, at his age, he should confine himself to always flying with an instructor in the back seat of the aeroplane.

However, on Sunday, April 15, he flew for the first time with veteran airline pilot and flying instructor Phil Marks before flying solo.

The club’s PR officer, Graham White, said: “Alan has set a new club record in being the most senior person ever to qualify as a pilot here; we have had many youngsters go solo at 16 – and the average person probably learns to fly in their forties or fifties – but for a senior citizen of 74 to go solo in such style, that is a first for us.

“The really nice thing is that he will be able to walk into any social gathering wearing his silver wings pin, and when other pensioners ask him ‘what are those wings for?’, he will be able to say, ‘oh, I just qualified as a glider pilot – it was great fun’.”

Borders Gliding Club provides Air Experience flights for visitors of any age and welcomes anyone who would like to learn to fly. For more information visit